Nationals Baseball: Another great start and great finish

Friday, August 22, 2014

Another great start and great finish

The former is what excites me more. Sorry walk-off fans.

Gio seemingly finding his way is going to set-up a very interesting situation if it continues. Remember, the Nats need a playoff rotation.  They don't have to throw just 3 or 4 guys out there. They could go with 5. But the days off that are sprinkled throughout the playoffs lend themselves better to a shorter rotation, probably a 3+1 would be the best way to describe it.  While Gio is the most... volatile Nats pitcher he's also the only left-handed one and for a guy who seemingly isn't interested in treading new ground as a manager Matt Williams will be very tempted to bring in a "new look" for the opposition. That would mean someone sits. And there are no easy answers to which of the other 4 sits unless one of them blows up in the next 6 weeks.

Oh well, these are first baseball world problems.

Is anyone not doing well recently? Danny. That's about it. You could say Michael Taylor is being looked at for induction to the Nats AAAA Club (hopefully temporarily) of guys that kill it in AAA and get killed in the majors.  Tyler Moore is reviewing his credentials as we speak. But bench players, you know. And the Nats have a bench player hot right now in Frandsen, 9 for his last 22 PA, with a walk. Granted they are all singles but like we said when Span was hot - you hit .450 no one cares if you walk.

How is Span doing.?  Arguably the worst of any regular Nats, .280 with minimal power and few walks over the last two weeks. Let's call it standard Span. But he's had all his walks recently so we'll see. And when a guy hitting .280 is your "worst" you're in a damn good stretch.  No guy you expect to start is close to being slumping.

Can the Nats keep up this during their last hard stretch? SF, then @PHI, @LA, @SEA? The reality is that they don't have to. Just keep from going 2-10 and they should be set up to finish the Braves off in that 6 faceoffs in 10 games that follow. And if they happen to roll through this stretch - even better. The only thing that is keeping the division alive is the Braves being hot. One team has to cool down. If it's the Braves first that'll put an official end to what I'm so close to wanting to call over, but just can't not yet. Just... Can I... no.  Not yet.

26 comments:

Froggy said...

I was thinking somer similar about the 'good problems' we have. In addition to what you point out our favorite punk kid is quietly getting his bat together down there in the six hole. And that Soriano cat looked good in the 9th as well.

For me this weekend will be key as the Giants will test us in a playoff caliber way. We'll be at the game tonight to watch hist...er...never mind.

Now, what to wear...

Donald said...

The other playoff issue is going to be what to do with Zimmerman when he returns. Will he have enough time to get his swing back and do you really want his balky arm at third in critical games?

Carl said...

Roark is a good candidate to fade in September, given that he's already past any previous IP workload. (I'd love to be wrong about that, though.)

I haven't done much analysis on this, but Soriano's troubles seem to come when he's used three days in a row. Hopefully Williams takes notice of this and makes the adjustment.

Strasburger said...

http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/50745/nationals-the-cream-of-the-crop-in-nl-east

Are you kidding me? The cream of the crop in the NL East? The Nats can't get any love, even when they produce one of the most dominant pitching win streaks in recent history.

We look great, and the most important development I think is Bryce heating up at the plate. He looks more comfortable out there and his stats reflect that during our win streak.

I still utterly dislike Sori. I don't think he should close, and I don't want to be saying "told ya so" when he gives up four runs in the ninth to lose a game in October. I'm unhappy he played well last night because now he has fully regained control of his job. It bothers me that the one night they chose to give someone else a chance to close, they gave it to Clip, who in my mind does not have the velocity or the movement in his fastball to be a shutdown guy in the ninth. Drew should have gotten his chance, but instead he had to clean up Ty's mess (very impressively I might add).

When Ryan gets back (if he does come back) there should be no discussion on whether he will play the field. He should pinch hit, and that's that. He's even a liability in the outfield and first base isn't exactly a cake walk. We have a great glove with Laroche there, and he is hitting well.

Watch Strasburg. He will be dominant for however long this team lasts going into September and October. He looks to finally have some of his best stuff back and is avoiding getting blown up in the first inning.

Chaos said...

What to wear? It's a t-shirt giveaway so I'll be wearing that American University shirt out in 104 tonight.

Barring any setback, I would be shocked if Zim doesn't start at 3rd when he returns. I'm more curious to see if Roark and Strasburg get skipped a start somewhere in September (unless MW's already decided that Roark's going to the bullpen).

Chaos...........last night, Matt Williams sits Desi on his OWN bobblehead night and the absence motivates Gio to bear down. I tell ya, the guy's a GENIUS! MOY!

JWLumley said...

I'm ready to call it. It's over. Not even an epic '51 Dodgers collapse could doom the Nationals because the Barves aren't as good as the '51 Giants. Although the 2011 Barves were up by 7.5 games going into September, no I don't think the Nats will have that kind of collapse, just wanted to remind everyone of the Barves epic collapse a few years ago.

The biggest reason it's over is because of the Nats starting pitching. 5 top 40 SP's means your team is highly unlikely to ever have a prolonged losing streak, thanks to games like yesterday. The Nats offense only scored 1 run against a bad pitcher...and they still won. They won because Gio was fantastic and so was the pen. That's the Nats biggest strength though, is their balance. Span goes cold, Harper heats up. Soriano melts down, Thornton gets hot. etc. etc.

As for the rotation, I'd probably lean toward sitting Roark if Gio rounds back into form. Largely due to workload and the fact that Roark is effective through black magic. However, I'd also consider Strasburg due to his inconsistency, unless he remains lights out down the stretch. Seems like pitching inside more is helping keep hitters off his fastball. It's a good tactic that could work to some extent long-term.

Finally, why, oh why, does Williams keep hitting Ramos in front of Harper. Is that to keep him from ever taking an extra base again? Ramos might be the slowest player in baseball since Benji Molina and takes away one of Harper's assets, his speed. Since both guys are going well, wouldn't you want Harper in front of Ramos? Then if Harper gets on in a close game like yesterday, he can do exactly what Span did. Also, pitchers who are worried about runners on first are more likely to not execute their pitches.

Donald said...

I think Strasburg, Zimmermann and Fister are absolute locks for the post season rotation. My guess is that Gio gets the last slot since Roark is better out of the pen. But a 5 man rotation to start wouldn't surprise me.

Anonymous said...

Roark in the pen but we'll see him very fast if (when?) Gio/Stras start shaky.

I have a love/hate relationship with these first baseball world problems.

Bjd1207 said...

@JW - I hear you on not wanting to stop up your speed guys, but I don't think its wise to construct a lineup planning for the lead-runner in the 9th situation.

I think Ramos only hit 5th yesterday cuz Desi was out, and MW wanted to keep he L/R alternation through the middle of the order. You can agree or disagree with using that decision-calculus over the speed, to me its a wash either way.

But you also have to consider that flipping those 2 puts Harper right behind LaRoche with arguably the same problem, if Ramos is the slowest in the League than LaRoche is the second slowest. So do you move Harp up to 4th? Then LaRoche is down to 6th as arguably your most productive hitter this year? Speed comes behind other lineup considerations in my book, cuz your basing in on the less-likely outcome (them getting on base as opposed to making an out)

Jimmy said...

Roark sits we need his black magic for the bp in the playoffs.

Jimmy said...

Also if/when Zim gets back we will have literally the best 1st world problems I've ever seen watching baseball.

JWLumley said...

@Bjd I hear you, the whole lineup is imperfect and I should probably just accept that it doesn't make that big a difference and move on. I just can't though. Even with all of his struggles, Harper's a guy with an OBP over .340 and there's just no way he should be batting 6th especially when Werth or Rendon gets a day off. Matt Williams is so married to the idea of L-R-L-R it's silly, but he forgets that over his entire life dating back to high school, Harper has always hit lefties well. I guess if he really wanted to do something, he'd bat Desmond 8th, which is where he should hit by OBP.

blovy8 said...

Wow, on an offensively challenged day at the park for the team, Span bloops a hit off a goofy loogy no one else can do anything against, steals a base he probably should have been caught doing, scores the only run to win the game, and you still find a way to dog him for only hitting .280 the last two weeks. You probably are replaying the video of him getting the gatorade dump so you can watch his pain.

I wouldn't get caught up in the blown saves thing, Storen is much more useful facing the other club's best hitters rather than waiting around until the ninth if there's a lead. I'm hoping Thornton has eliminated the biggest issue - using Blevins too much. He's now the mop up man, and that's where he should be, peripherals be damned!

I agree that Zim would just give you an excellent pinch hitter at this point, and it would be easy to use the hamstring as an excuse. If he needs at bats in late September, they can immediately send Taylor in to pinch run for him every time he gets on.

WiredHK said...

I'll play Devil's Advocate on putting Roark in the 'pen -- setting aside is silly good numbers that you would HAVE to start if you took his name off the stats page, I think he has the right "stuff" for post-season. What I mean is his demeanor and more importantly, his command. Playoff atmosphere is just different - every pitch matters, there is pressure all the time, dealing with RISP is magnified 3x from a regular season game, etc.

I just don't trust Gio with that sort of pressure, especially given the up and down year he has had. Gio's Achilles Heal is always control, he ends up as his own worst enemy a lot with walks. Roark simply does not. He has command, control and appears to me to be a calm customer at all times (not screaming into his glove when he doesn't get a close call, etc).

If it's me, I'm absolutely sending Gio to the 'pen and starting Roark in the playoffs.

Super Homer said...

Speaking of Zim and first baseball world problems...at least we'll have a real DH if we make it to the World Series. Before the Cabrera trade the extra bat would have been Frandsen? Hairston maybe? Certainly not Danny.

Yeah...I know. Way ahead of things. But it's a good place to be. Especially if an injury occurs.

JWLumley said...

@WiredHK Have you seen the LOLineups that Roark has faced this year? It's no coincidence that they have a significantly lower aggregate OPS than any of the other starters have faced. Roark is smoke and mirrors and may wear down given the increased workload. I would pitch Gio with Roark in the bullpen just in case. Gio's issues have had less to do with control and more to do with a lack of control over his curveball. He needs the curveball to be effective and it hasn't been there until yesterday.

JWLumley said...

Wow, what a conundrum. While I watch almost all Nats games, I especially love watching Doug Fister. However, I promised myself that I wasn't going to bother watching if Tim Hudson is pitching because it's futile and only makes me mad. I don't know what to do. I've wasted so many 3 hourses watching the Nats lose to Hudson and look bad doing so.

Mitch said...

@JWLumley
Maybe Williams is batting Ramos in front of Bryce to keep Bryce from running into yet another out on the basepaths. Pretty clever, actually.

WiredHK said...

Yes, I read Harper's posts regarding the lineups faced and understand that likely plays a role (though I don't value it nearly as much as you may - that stuff all evens out over time). He now has an MLB track record that extends beyond this year and into last as well, right? His stats are incredibly good -- and I cannot understand a logic that ostensibly says, "Yeah but look who it was against" as a means for NOT giving a guy the ball against good competition to see if it continues. Bench me because "maybe" this isn't real? No way.

Your argument seems predicated on "may wear down" or "we just don't know" vs grounded in rock solid reasoning. You also say Gio's issue isn't command it is...command? I find that...odd. His curveball has been his biggest weapon in his career and he flat cannot locate it this year - at all. That is huge and cannot be discounted.

Look, I love Gio. I think Nats fans love Gio. Gio has track record and history that Roark does not. But all of that said, right now, Roark would give us the best chance to win. It seems impossible to logically argue otherwise.

In the playoffs, with that pressure, honestly, who would you most expect to come unglued this year - Gio or Roark?

Just my two cents.

JWLumley said...

@WiredHK Sure, there's some maybes, ifs, etc. in there and I guess what they're covering up is that Roark's stuff, pedigree and track record in the minors are not good. In fact, he was pretty bad in the minor leagues and yes he has almost one full season of good numbers, but he's never pitched a full season. We don't know if he'll wear down towards the end, but we know that a lot of pitchers do when faced with similar circumstances.

Watching the game the other night, I was reminded of another guy who had a good season, Oliver Perez. I think the Mets are still paying him and Bobby Bonilla. Still, though, my whole argument was predicated on Gio returning to form. If Gio pitches like he did the 3 starts before yesterday over the rest of the season, than by all means pitch Roark. However, if he pitches like he did yesterday over the rest of the season, then you go with the guy who almost won the Cy Young in 2012, was great last year and has had an up and down year.

The whole thing of Gio folding under pressure is as nonsensical as Strasburg being soft. Because the guy's demonstrative he's apparently a head case? Gio's also pitched in the playoffs before, not that it matters to me.

Finally, Gio is left handed, which makes him unlike any other Nats pitcher. Depending on who they face, it might make sense to start Gio in Game 1 or 2 if it's a team that struggles against righties or not at all if it's the Brewers all right handed lineup. So, while I believe the NL East race is officially over, I think the playoff rotation isn't something that should be decided now. We'll see what happens.

Kenny B. said...

@Strasburger: weirdly, that post was all about the Braves, despite the title.

@Harper: Don't you dare call it yet. Don't. You. Dare. We'll be rating the superhunks soon enough.

As much as I'd love to see the lead extended, I just love how this win streak has completely negated the hotness of the Braves. I'd be biting my fingernails right now if the lead were down to 3 games or so. Plus, IIRC, the Braves need to make up games in the loss column, and the Nats are just not giving up losses. Like, literally, no losses.

It's really nice to be living here in the first baseball world, and it's even more meaningful when the team spent so much of its early existence in the third baseball world.

The Zimmerman issue is a legitimate problem, though. I think he'll be back in September, and there will be a tough decision as to what to do with him. He's the Z-man, so you want to get him in there just because of who he is and his status (with me, anyway) as Mr. National. I say, if the situation is still pretty sewn up in September, get him as many starts/ABs as you can to see if he comes off the DL hot. If he's slow to come back and doesn't have the time to get up to speed in September, you re-evaluate in October, and use him liberally as a PH.

I just can't believe we even have to have a conversation as to whether Ryan Zimmerman should start. I would love to go back and tell 2008 Kenny B. about this.

WiredHK said...

I don't think the worry that he would come apart under pressure is nonsensical at all given the year he is having and the frustrations that go along with it. I think that's a valid part of evaluating a tough decision like this. It's certainly as valid as any single reason you've put forward to decide Roark shouldn't be there - because let's face it, if we're just using numbers for this entire year, this is a laughable debate. But reasonable minds can disagree. (And FWIW, I'm not part of the "Stras is soft" brigade). Gio has command issues, especially with his best pitch, this year.

I think it's fair to think under playoff pressure, of all things, guys with command issues are a risk. Again, you're free to disagree.

Btw, even in his 2012 Cy Young caliber year (while firing on all cylinders), are you aware of Gio's post-season stats? Small sample size and all, but...I don't think it helps your case much.

The best and only argument to pitch him is that he's a lefty if we face a lefty-dominant lineup. That's about it right now....

Froggy said...

Looks like the Harper before Ramos argument was settled last night. Maybe MW reads this blog?

I'm with WiredHK on Roark v. Gio. Roark is cool as a cucumber for the most part regardless if he is getting shelled or dominating. Unlike Gio who has been a hothouse flower. He has consistent control and location of his pitches and has proven himself over the whole season and eliminated the thought that last half season was a fluke. I like my chances starting him in the playoffs.

Now...if Gio pulls his head out and settles into the pre Biogenesis distraction Gio and pitches like we love him to pitch we got a good problem on our hands. If his next 3 starts are like Thursday and he is hot going at the end, you have to pitch him because he is a lefty. Then Roark to the pen.

But WTF is MW thinking of leaving Blevins in for two innings last night?? I was just shaking my head. He is simply a LOOGY and that is it IMO.

Donald said...

@froggy-- I thought the same thing. I was surprised he came out for a second inning to begin with. Then when two runners reached, even with two outs I said ok he's gonna bring in someone else. Those extra two runs are on MW.

But one thing about Davey was he knew when to take a lose and save his guys for a better day. I feel like MW kinda wants to do that. It's just that he's throws in the towel too early some times.

Nattydread said...

Time to let the statistics speak Mr. Harper (and no cherry-picking).

Sometimes MLB players change and get better --- and the stats reflect the change. I don't buy the dismissive "Span is who he is" argument anymore.

The man is a force to be reckoned with in 2014 and a much better player. Multi-hit games, extra base hits. Excellent fielding. Poised and intelligent base running.

In 2014, he is the man that Rizzo thought he would be. This is not simple a hot streak. Give the man a break!

JE34 said...

It'll never happen, but Strasburg is the weakest starter right now, and if he continues to get hit hard, he should not start in the postseason.